One of the things that living in Beijing has done is give me an appreciation for blue skies and clean air. Yes, that appreciation comes from exposure to horrible pollution, but it’s an appreciation nonetheless.
Bad air days in Beijing are depressing. It actually took me a while to realize this–not only do 400 AQI days make for post-apocalyptic scenery, they also made me feel like the world was ending.
Fortunately, the overall air quality in Beijing seems to be improving. The average AQI is still pretty bleak, but there are fewer horrible days. I remember hearing a while back that the plan was for the air in Beijing to be healthy by 2035. Well, healthy is actually a pretty high bar, so it’s about time to turn the corner and head in that direction.
Maybe I’m kidding myself. I’m pretty sure that any increase in AQI is associated with decreased life expectancy, there was a study a while back that claimed pollution was shaving five years off of life expectancy in northern China, and I haven’t even mentioned food, water or soil safety. So we’re definitely making a health compromise by living in Beijing.
We planned to leave Beijing back in 2016. Our son was one year old, and checking the AQI each morning to see if we could take him outside just felt terrible. But we were reminded of the charms of Beijing in the year or so that we were gone, and by the time we were back here our son was old enough to enjoy more of the wonderful things about the city, so here we are for now.
Today the sky is blue and there is a smile on my face.